The Christmas Story, In 4 Parts

Below is short, narrative retelling of the Christmas story that highlights the golden thread of the gospel that is woven into the first retellings of Jesus’ birth. Designed as a Christmas Eve script, the story below will serve as an excellent devotion for you and your family this Christmas season. Read it on Christmas Eve around or on Christmas morning before you tear into the presents. Or simply tack it on your daily bible reading. I hope this recounting of the miracle of Christmas warms your soul anew this Christmas. Merry Christmas!

The Story Begins: John 1:1-5

All was quiet; all was dark that first Christmas Eve night. The shepherds scattered across the hills of Bethlehem had become accustomed to the despair. They were well acquainted with Rome’s red shields that glistened atop the walls of Jerusalem. What little dignity the Romans had left the Judean shepherds was exploited by corrupt priests who preferred philosophical discussions about the proper way to tie one’s shoe to debates about justice, love, and mercy. Indeed, the shepherds’ world was dark.

But the world had not always been this way. The shepherds had heard the stories of the great prophet Moses. He had talked of a paradise inhabited by the universe’s first couple, Adam and Eve. There, at the beginning of time, all was good. All was perfect. Moses’s first book, Genesis, reports that, “God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good (Gen 1:31a).” Every day, Adam and Eve conversed with God as they walked through the garden together. The first couple could feel, taste, and sense the love, justice, kindness, and goodness of God. They in-turn cultivated a human society defined by love, kindness, and justice. No fears, darkness, or silence could touch their hearts for they knew God. Like a child on Christmas morning, Adam and Eve rebounded with joy, praise, and glory. All was good!

But as the Shepherds knew, those days of joy had faded into the recesses of history long ago. God now resided behind a curtain in the temple. He no longer walked with humanity. Even the great prophets like Moses, Elijah, and Isaiah had become the relics of a by gone era. God was silent, hovering far above the stars. Evil, despair, and sorrow filled the void he had left.

The Darkness Explained: Luke 1:68-71

The Shepherds also knew the source of the darkness. Moses spoke of a vile snake. He had slithered into God’s paradise, promising Adam and Eve equality with God in exchange for one act of rebellion. The couple took the snake up on his offer. But instead of being elevated to the heights of Mount Olympus, the couple stumbled into the pits of Hades. The couple lost their connection to the divine experiences of love, goodness, and justice. They had attached their souls to selfishness, brokenness, and lawlessness. Sadly, Adam and Eve destroyed not only their own hearts but also the hearts of all their children.

Their son, Cain, turned worship into a provocation for murder, serving as the new exemplar of humanity. Within a few generations, the evil of humanity reached such heights that God began humanity anew, wiping out the world with a flood. He set aside Noah to serve as the new father of the human race. But the builder of the ark would fail to keep the world pure, stumbling into drunkenness. God then set aside Abraham to create a people for himself. But like Noah and Adam before him, Abraham stumbled from the heights of faith. He lied and committed adultery.

His descendants fared no better. The great prophet, Moses, whom all the Jews revered disobeyed God, striking a rock in a fit of rage. The first priest, Aaron, created a golden calf. And King David committed adultery on numerous occasions before murdering an innocent soldier. Every great prophet, priest, and king of the Jews failed to escape the effects of Adam’s first sin. As the apostle Paul had said, “Sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned (Rom. 5:12).”
Darkness reigned. No human could overcome it.

If we are honest with ourselves, we too have known this darkness. Despite all our intentions, efforts, and promises to eat healthier, listen more, and complain less, we still find ourselves plagued by sin and lawlessness. We still get angry when a loved one interrupts our T.V. show. We still roll our eyes when Aunt Sarah gifts us another homemade sweater instead of a PlayStation. And despite all the lights, hot coco, and cheer, we still cannot find the power to forgive that one person that stabbed us in the back all those years ago. The darkness that hovered over the shepherds that first Christmas Eve still hovers over many of us.
But the darkness of that first Christmas Eve would not remain. An angel visited Zechariah while he ministered in the temple, telling the aged priest that he would have a son. Another visited a virgin in Nazareth, proclaiming that Messiah was coming! God was about to break through the darkness!

Baby Jesus: The Light of the World (Luke 2:8-20)

On that first Christmas morning, the light of salvation penetrated the darkness of earth in the form of a tiny baby. God filled the night sky with angels and his glory. It was light far more magnificent than any sun or star. It possessed a purity unlike any other. As the apostle John had written, “God is light and in him is no darkness at all (1 Jn. 1:5).” The shepherds understandably trembled when they first saw the light for God was holy and they were not. Were we with them on that first Christmas morning, we too would have been “filled with great fear (Lk 2:9).”

But the message of Christmas proclaims that we no longer have to fear God. The light that shone about the angels consisted of both holiness and forgiveness. The angel tells the Shepherds (and us) to fear not, “for behold I bring you good new of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto to you is born this day in the City of David a Savior who is Christ the Lord (Lk 2:10-11).” Jesus came not to judge but to save. He arrived not as some self-righteous, grumpy old man who looks cross eyed you when you walk into church 5 minutes late. He came humbly as a baby “wrapped in swaddling cloths and laying in a manger (Lk 2:12).” No pretense is required. No hoops have to be jumped through. To commune with God afresh, men and women need only to follow the shepherds to the stable and worship baby Jesus.

Though such an offer sounds outlandish, it is not. The manger was not a bait-and-switch tactic. It was a foreshadowing of Jesus’s true purpose. The baby in the manger can freely commune with sinners because he deals with their sins, dirty looks, and imperfections on the cross. As a child, teenager, and adult, Jesus perfectly fulfills the law. He faithfully worships God and never rolls his eyes or forgets to follow through on a project. He dies not for his sins but for ours. At his death, “the curtain of the temple was torn in two (Lk 23:45).” Thankfully Jesus does not stay dead; we do not commune with spirits who hide in the universe’s shadows. Our God is the God of the living. The angels at his tomb wonderfully declare, “He is not here, but has risen (Lk 24:6).” All who repent of their sins and trust in Jesus for salvation will live in eternity with him. God once again dwells “with those with whom he is pleased (Lk 2:14).”

This is the good news of great joy that the angels sing of. The light that Adam and Eve had rejected has returned to call sinners to himself. A prophet, priest, and king who never stumbled into sin has come, died, and risen again. The light has overcome the darkness.

Follow the Shepherds to Bethlehem: Luke 2:28-32

Christ the savior has come! This is the good news of great joy that shattered the darkness of that first Christmas Eve as the calendar flipped to Christmas day! As the Apostle Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 15:21-22, “For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” Christmas morn has dawned!

And now we must respond. We must follow the shepherds and come to the manger of the newborn king. As Christmas begins to dawn again, we should contemplate afresh the offer of salvation. If you come to the manger enveloped by the darkness of that first Christmas Eve, I invite you to repent of your sin and to trust in Christ for salvation. You need not do anything but come and worship Christ the newborn king. If you have already joined the shepherds’ song embracing the glories of salvation, I encourage you to kneel afresh at the manger. The miracle of salvation proves just as profound today as the day when you first believed. The light of revelation has come! Merry Christmas!